Online petitions have become a popular tool of the conservation movement. A well-written petition can be an important tool for helping to shape policy, particularly when used as part of a larger and well-organized lobbying and advocacy campaign. Many petitions, however, are so badly written as to be ineffective or even counterproductive when it comes to influencing real policy change. Even worse, they falsely perpetuate the idea that an activist has “done something” about the problem, which may prevent them from participating in a process that could result in real change.
In case you want to join the numerous activists who are filling my Facebook news feed and e-mail inbox with useless petitions, here is an easy 5 step guide for you to to follow, using examples from some real petitions I’ve been asked to sign.
A note on terminology: Petitions typically contain a few basic elements, which I term here “the problem”, “the target”, and “the solution”. The problem briefly describes the undesirable situation that the petition hopes to remedy. The target is who the petition is directed at. The solution is what should be done about the problem.